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Current Diet Trends & Kids

VEGETARIAN DIET

A vegetarian diet excludes meat, poultry, fish, seafood and shellfish but includes eggs and dairy products. “It can be really healthy for children and teens. Vegetarian diets include a lot of healthy foods like fruit, veggies, whole grains and protein-rich foods like eggs, tofu, and dairy products. If your child is eating a variety of those foods, it can be very beneficial. On the other hand, if you have a picky eater, it can be a restrictive diet,” says CHOC clinical pediatric dietitian Vanessa Chrisman. Vegetarian diets are associated with lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels, a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, hypertension, cancer and type 2 diabetes, and a lower obesity risk, she notes.

VEGAN DIET

Vegans are vegetarians who do not eat dairy, eggs, gelatin or other animal products. “A vegan diet can be healthy for kids too but this is a diet that can be restrictive and parents should seek help from a registered dietitian to make sure their child is meeting their nutritional needs. Calcium and B12 are two micronutrients that can be low in a vegan diet. However, if you include soy milk or other non-dairy milks in the diet, most are enriched with calcium and vitamin B12. Calcium is really important for children in the development of strong bones and teeth,” says Chrisman.

PALEO AND GLUTEN-FREE DIETS

The Paleo diet is a newer diet trend that Chrisman says is less suited for children. “The paleo diet is a high-protein, high-fiber diet consisting of lean meat, fish, fruits, veggies, eggs and oil. It excludes grains, dairy, anything with sugar, salt, beans and other legumes. Supporters say it helps people lose weight. It’s hard for kids to maintain their growth on this diet and get all the nutrients they need,” she says. A gluten-free diet excludes wheat, barley and rye, and foods made from them. (Gluten is a protein found in those grains that some people may have an intolerance to.) “A gluten-free diet is safe for kids to follow, but if not medically necessary, there is no reason to follow it because it removes many healthy whole grain foods from the diet,” says Chrisman.

Meet Vanessa Chrisman - Registered Dietician

Vanessa Chrisman is a registered dietitian and certified lactation educator. She offers outpatient nutrition counseling for children of all ages at CHOC and many of its clinics. Vanessa offers an individualized nutrition assessment and diet education for kids with health issues including poor weight gain, obesity, food allergies, celiac disease, high cholesterol, kidney disease, ADHD, Down syndrome, autism, picky eaters, vegetarian nutrition and other medical diagnoses. She also teaches obesity nutrition classes.

Vanessa’s philosophy of care: “My goals are to optimize the growth and development of my patients, as well as advocate lifelong health and wellness. I strive to provide individualized, evidence-based and culturally sensitive nutrition information that is relevant to the family as a whole. I treat every child like he or she is my own and I listen to parents so I may provide the best care possible. I hope I am making a difference in children’s lives by promoting good nutrition and wellness from a young age.”

EDUCATION:
Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition from Southern Illinois University Carbondale; Dietetic Internship at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center

Vanessa Chrisman, RD CLE

Vanessa Chrisman, RD CLE
Clinical Pediatric Dietitian II

Organic Foods – Are they more nutritious?

Organic foods continue to be all the rage. They can be found in most grocery stores and are often touted as being healthier than conventional foods. Along with those health benefits, a higher price tag is often expected as well.

So, what is organic anyway? To carry an organic label in the U.S., foods must be grown without synthetic pesticides, growth hormones, antibiotics, genetic engineering or chemical fertilizers.

Fruits and vegetables

Creating Healthy Mental Food Perceptions in Kids

Mom and daughter preparing a meal in the kitchen

Not only can parents help instill good eating habits in children, but they also have significant influence over a child’s mental perceptions about food, a CHOC Children’s psychologist says.

“Food does more than just fulfill our basic needs for sustenance,” says Dr. Cindy Kim, a psychologist with expertise in pediatric feeding disorders. “Food also gets associated with a sense of comfort, fullness, safety and pleasure.”

Knowledge is the best medicine. Learn more about your child's health in these features from the experts at CHOC.

Identifying Hernias
“Parents will typically notice a bulge in the groin or abdominal wall, where there shouldn’t be one,” says CHOC pediatric surgeon Dr. Reyna. This may be a hernia, and if so, it’s caused by tissue that is protruding through a hole in the musculature.


Chronic Constipation
Constipation is a common problem that can make kids – and their parents – miserable. “I think I have changed more lives by treating constipation than any other condition,” says Dr. Mitchell Katz, a CHOC pediatric gastroenterologist.


Dental Hygiene
Poor oral health can cause problems with feeding in babies and also harm a child’s overall health, development and school performance. Learn more in this health feature.


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